Routes to Net Zero

Routes to Net Zero

There are multiple routes to net zero, the difficulty is cutting through the noise and finding the right route for you. This brief article will outline three of the most credible routes to reaching net zero.

Pressure is mounting with more and more frameworks, providers, and corporations demanding to see what you are doing about reaching net zero by the government target of 2050. Some parties are piling extra pressure on by demanding carbon reduction plans from their suppliers to facilitate their journey to net zero earlier, e.g., Greener NHS, National Highways’ netzero roadmap, Nestlé’s road to net zero, and many more!

So what is net zero?

Put as simply as possible, net zero is the complete negation of greenhouse gas emissions. This is done through reducing emission sources down as far as possible, close to 100%, then utilising some form of offset method (absorption, renewable investments etc.) to negate the low level of remaining emissions.

What about carbon neutral?

Carbon neutral and net zero are not necessarily the same thing. To claim carbon neutrality doesn’t require you to have reduced your emissions down all the way, allowing you to offset as much of your footprint as you like. If done right however, carbon neutrality can be an excellent tool to reaching net zero as (if you’re committed to using certified credits to offset) you will have a financial incentive to keep reducing your emissions year on year.

So what are the most credible routes to achieving net zero?

There are many routes you can take to reach net zero, below are three which are deemed highly credible.

SBTs

Science Based Targets have put together The SBTi’s Net-Zero Standard, which is aimed primarily at corporations with over 500 employees. Setting of targets and validation of efforts is all steered and governed by SBTi. The core areas required in this standard are as follows:

  • Ensuring a focus on rapid, deep emission cuts;
  • Simultaneous setting of near and long-term targets;
  • Stipulating no net zero claims are to be made before 90% reductions; and
  • Recommending you go outside of your personal value chain to make more climate changing mitigations.

Pros: you are setting very high level and technical targets which ensure you will eventually reach net zero and are encouraged to make a difference.

Cons: aimed at large corporations and no way to advertise the great efforts you are making, not externally validated to grant higher level credibility and requires you to have already calculated your carbon footprint.

Carbon Trust

The Carbon Trust are one of the more popular options with their suite of support and services to complement their Route to Net Zero Standard. This standard is split into three tiers, each tier allowing you to demonstrate where you are on the road to net zero:

  • Tier one, Taking Action, covering:
    • Historical reductions in operational emissions,
    • GHG emissions reduction target,
    • Foundational CO2e management practices.
  • Tier two, Advancing covering:
    • Science-aligned reductions in emissions,
    • Science-aligned reduction target,
    • Advancing CO2e management practices.
  • Tier three, Leading, covering:
    • 5°C aligned reductions in emissions,
    • Net Zero target,
    • Leading CO2e management practices.

Pros: you are working with a consultancy with over 20 years’ experience decarbonizing businesses who can also help you define your carbon footprint, use of a well-know logo and the ability to advertise progress to net zero.

Cons: lack of external validation means a lower level of credibility, lack of availability as the trust becomes heavily oversubscribed.

Certification Body PAS 2060 validation

This process is fairly new in 2023. UKAS (the United Kingdom Accreditation Service) have been piloting the standard PAS 2060, the Carbon Neutrality Standard, to offer a fully accredited validation service. There are a number of UKAS Accredited certification bodies (e.g., NQA, BSI & Interface NRM) offering a validation service to the requirements of PAS 2060 and pairing it with a verification service to standards like ISO 14064-1, the specification for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals. PAS 2060 requires a 4 stage process to becoming carbon neutral:

  • Measure – simply outlines the requirements to measuring your carbon footprint (as mentioned, most certification bodies are recommending ISO 14064-1 for this).
  • Reduce – a carbon reduction plan with clear timeframes and targets to achieve neutrality, to be updated annually.
  • Offset – once you have reduced as far as you can, you offset the residuals. The standard outlines compliant offsetting sources.
  • Document & Verify – your carbon reduction plan enters into a larger Qualifying Explanatory Statement which is publicly disclosed and required to be validated.

Pros: third party validation by accredited bodies gives your public disclosure a high level of credibility and ensures you are well on your way to net zero.

Cons: it can be a complex process, and could be better supported by a consultant (accredited bodies cannot provide consultancy).

In summary, there are three reliable routes your company can take to reach net zero. Ultimately, the route you take is your choice, but you do need to take a route soon as 2050 isn’t as far away as it sounds!

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